Month: April 2015

Z is for Zoozical

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Phew! My fellow A to Z bloggers, we made it! Congratulations!

I’ll conclude this marathon month with a title that actually begins with the letter Z – Judy Sierra’s Zoozical.

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This is certainly a silly plot. When bad weather keeps visitors away from the zoo, nearly every animal succumbs to the winter doldrums. That is, until a startled hippo kicks off a hop-fest with a young kangaroo. When that hop-fest turns into a dance party, the other animals join in, adding well-known songs (with creatively modified lyrics) to kick things up a notch. Before long, they have a great idea for attracting visitors back to the zoo: A ZooZical!

My favorite thing about this book is the delicious and lovely rhythm and word choice. I want to read this one again and again, and I don’t even have a little on asking for it. Here’s a taste:

“It was one of those times that you hope never ends,

When penguins and pandas and pythons are friends,

When tigers don’t bite, when the doldrums take flight,

On a magical, musical ZooZical night.”

Happy A to Z and RhyPiBoMo, everyone. I look forward to the return of both next year.

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Y is for Why?

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We’re at the home stretch for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and that means I have to get a little creative when it comes to my alpha-relevant rhyming picture book titles. So speaking of stretches, here’s today’s selection:

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“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.

I don’t know why she swallowed the fly – Perhaps she’ll die!”

Get it? Why? Y?

Until the blogging referee calls, “Foul!” I’ll tell you a little more about this classic nursery rhyme. While I couldn’t track down the precise origin, the song version and lyrics are credited to Rose Bonne. A version sung by Burl Ives was released in 1953 (source: Wikipedia).

The poem and song has a cumulative structure in which the verses grow each time the narrator introduces a new animal. In the absurd tale, the old lady swallows a series of increasingly larger creatures in order to catch the one that came before it. The silly spectacle and memory challenge is appealing to young children. And that memorization and recitation element is an important pre-literacy skill.

For a semi-recent picture book edition of this classic, check out the one written and illustrated by Pam Adams. I was tickled by Adams’ visual take on the old lady’s digestive process (think nesting dolls).

X is for Expletive

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In the immortal words of George Takei, “Oh myyy!”

While this next title is a rhyming picture book, due to its graphic language, it’s best that you don’t read it to young kids.

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Adam Mansbach’s Go the F**k to Sleep is definitely for adults. In particular, it’s for parents who regularly struggle to get their kids to go to and stay in bed. You aren’t alone. Consider this humorous parody an unconventional and somewhat subversive bit of moral support.

For added effect, check out Samuel L. Jackson’s reading.

W is for The Wind Blew

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This past Saturday we had a day that resembled the one described in Pat Hitchins’ 1974 rhyming picture book, The Wind Blew.

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Whereas the gusts here in Los Angeles took down a few tree branches and relocated debris, the wind staring in this story creates mischief by making all sorts of belongings airborne.

While the story doesn’t have the tightest or strongest verse (slant end rhymes abound), I found myself drawn to the growing mass of townspeople in desperate pursuit of their swirling possessions. Will they ever come down?

V is for This is the Van that Dad Cleaned

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Borrowing from the “House that Jack Built” structure is author/illustrator Lisa Campbell Ernst’s funny take on just how challenging it can be to keep freshly-washed van clean.

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In This is the Van that Dad Cleaned, we move backwards to explore the series of unfortunate events between three young siblings that reduce Dad’s spotless van to an icky, sticky mess. The repetition of each link on the growing chain of events, along with the rhyming pattern of –orn end sounds lends itself well to participation and anticipation of what might have happened next… er, before!

Luckily, this time Dad doesn’t have to face this fresh mess alone.

“We are the kids,

Early next morn,

That washed off the moose with only one horn,

And swept out last Halloween’s candy corn…”

Aw, what good kids!

U is for Up Above & Down Below

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This great big world of ours has got a lot of layers. Author/illustrator Sue Redding explores life just below the surface in her rhyming picture book, Up Above & Down Below.

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Readers get a peek at the rarely-seen realms of the underground juxtaposed right alongside their top-dwelling counterparts. And the differences are striking.

We delve beneath stages, check out who’s napping in cellars, poke at the critters within insect tunnels and rabbet warrens, and dive deep into frozen waters to see what’s bubbling below. Often, those of us up here have no idea about those unseen guys down there.

“As furry and feathered friends play up in the leaves,

Creepy crawlies rule the ground underneath the trees.”

Great eye opener!

T is for Tom’s Tweet

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I am hitting the jackpot with rhyming picture books involving pet adventures. I love and know cats well, so I enjoyed this tale of a cantankerous kitty who is surprised to find himself caring for a helpless baby bird.

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Tom the cat was simply stalking prey when he decided against gobbling up a too-tiny bird. But when the vulnerable tweet “blink-blink-blinked” Tom’s heart started to overrule his carnivorous nature, much to his surprise and chagrin.

I was tickled as Tom suffered through the indignities and mishaps of bird-sitting. And his Yosemite Sam style grumblings (dagnabit!) added a certain flair.

“When the little tweet yawned

And hopped under Tom’s armpit,

He squirmed away, shaking his head.

‘No snuggling,’ he grumped. ‘I’m not that kind of cat.’

But the wee thing ignored what he said.”

Reluctant and grumpy protagonists are the cutest!

S is for Steam Train Dream Train

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This next sleepy time rhyming picture book has everything. A survey of different train cars and their functions, a crew comprised of zoo animals, and freight consisting of everything imaginable.

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Opening only with the sounds of the approaching train, Sherri Duskey Rinker’s story unfolds like a wondrous puzzle. The nighttime illustrations take us past such scenes as beret-wearing elephants filling tankers with paint, and turtles loading an autorack with rainbow-colored race cars. This steam train is sure to fuel creative dreams!

R is for Rattletrap Car

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If I could give an award to the rhyming picture book with the best sound effects, it would go to Phyllis Root’s Rattletrap Car.

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It’s hot hot hot, and Junie and Jake propose a trip to the lake. But Poppa isn’t so sure that their rattletrap car will get them there. Through a series of mechanical mishaps and silly solutions, this resourceful family makes their way. But boy, what a ride. An excerpt:

Poppa turned the key,

brum brum brum brum.

Clinkety clankety

Bing bang pop!

Q is for the Queen of Hearts

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Okay, today’s installment is a stretch, but bear with me. While there isn’t a rhyming picture book devoted to this character, her genesis is firmly rooted in rhyme.

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According to Wikipedia, “The Queen of Hearts” poem was penned by an anonymous author and first appeared in 1782 in a magazine for adults along with three lesser-known stanzas. The queen’s stanzas proved popular while the other stanzas (“The King of Spades”, “The King of Clubs”, and “The Diamond King”) fell into obscurity.

The poem eventually became known as a nursery rhyme and was set to music by 1785. An excerpt:

The Queen of Hearts

She made some tarts,

All on a summers day;

The Knave of Hearts

He stole those tarts,

And took them clean away.

Lewis Carole adapted the Queen of Hearts for his book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and used the poem as evidence in the trial against the Knave of Hearts. That, along with Disney’s animated take on Carole’s work, ultimately planted the Queen of Hearts firmly into contemporary pop culture. Though far less a victim of pastry theft these days than tyrannical villain.

From Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951).

From Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951).